Launching Young Entrepreneurs in the Lynchburg Area

Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Parker Slaybaugh

Lynchburg, VA - If you're a teenager in the Lynchburg area with a great business idea, this could be your chance. The Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce is launching a new program that teaches teens how to get a business off the ground and be young entrepreneurs. It's called YEA! - the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

Lynchburg is the first city in Virginia to launch YEA! Students will learn to write business plans, do market research, even pitch their business idea to real investors. Organizers are comparing it to the popular ABC show Shark Tank.

Shark Tank is a T.V. show where entrepreneurs pitch a business idea. Then, investors, the sharks, either give the business money and support, or nothing at all. YEA! is a similar concept, but for youth.

Business leaders in Lynchburg are making YEA! a reality. They are local entrepreneurs like Lester Wooldridge, founder of Wooldridge Heating and Air 37 years ago.

"If you believe in something, it's easy to convince other people. If you got your heart and soul in to it, people listen to you," said Wooldridge.

The YEA! program lasts nine months and will be taught in a classroom at CVCC. Established entrepreneurs like Darlene Mack will mentor the kids.

"Sometimes you can learn so much just from experience and someone that's walked in the trenches than from a book," said Mack.

YEA! is launching its pilot program with teens from the Boys and Girls Club. The director is eager to get the ball rolling.

"What I like about it is I want young people to learn to take appropriate risks. Because they do take risks now, but some of the risks that they take are the ones that are getting them in trouble," said Sheehan.

With YEA! the hope is many students will graduate with a business of their own, and some lessons in life.

"If I didn't have a strong faith, we couldn't be where we are today," said Mack.

Lynchburg is the first in Virginia to adopt the YEA! program, but it's succeeded in 13 states so far. A select 12-15 teens will go through the pilot program.